The treatment of melancholia in Ficino

Keywords: Ficino, Melancholy, Therapy


Based on the reading of Ficino’s writings dedicated to melancholy, the present research considers how, combining elements from different sources, the Florentine philosopher contributed decisively to the understanding of this condition and to the constitution of a differentiated therapeutic medium. The framing of the De Vita Libri Tres in the long succession of medical and philosophical theories (and practices) concerning the melancholic constitution reveals its participation in the incremental dimension of a dense semantics, but also, in a decisive way, the absence of a univocal evolution of the ideas of melancholy. This is well expressed in Ficino’s recovering of a benign side of the melancholic temperament, combining medical
orthodoxy concerning humoral balance with the possibility, enunciated in the Problem XXX, of a higher form of equilibrium. The emergence of contemplative geniality, considered the central feature/state of the highest human achievements, particularly in the field of academic studies, takes place in a form of ecstasy, conceived in the molds of the Platonic Mania. Ficino’s role in the evolution of conceptions of melancholy is also evidenced in his exploration of its amorous and religious forms, indicative of a sensitivity to the social conditions of individuation, but also of the
attempt to understand and mitigate the existential tribulations associated with his own temperament. As for the therapeutic source proposed by the Florentine philosopher, their most innovative aspect lies in its mobilization of astrology and magic, trying to demonstrate that they are a natural resource based on a concept of sympathy between the elements of the cosmic hierarchy and, as such, distinct from necromancy and demonology.


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